When a Parisian recommends a restaurant in Dubai by saying “It’s the most authentically French place I’ve eaten outside of Paris,” it counts for a lot. And then, when you book a table, sit down and find everyone around you is speaking in French, that’s a pretty good sign, too; it isn’t unfair to suggest French people are quite fussy about food – they can spot a phony confit a mile off.
For Bistro Des Arts, which opened in Dubai Marina in October last year, it would seem the mission has already been accomplished. It was the idea of Julien Pilard and Jonathan Vercoutere, two friends with a mutual passion for food and drink who also shared the dream of bringing proper French cuisine or “a little slice of Paris” to Dubai.
It’s certainly true that you don’t see many French restaurants in Dubai – not on the scale of Peruvian and Japanese, at least – because pulled out of context, classic dishes rarely work to the same standard, style and authenticity outside of their motherland. Located in the Marina and under the umbrella of a major hotel chain, The Address, Bistro Des Arts has certainly had to navigate a critical minefield, but the French accents in earshot underline the degree to which they’ve succeeded.
The first bonus point is the entrance. Don’t make the mistake we did and get dropped off at the main hotel; you’ll be instructed to walk through the mall out onto the Marina Promenade where you’ll find a separate entrance, instantly giving it that “walked in off the street” feel you rarely get here.
You’ll step up into a curved little outside area shaded with a red canopy that feels a million miles from the buggies and joggers circling the Marina a few metres away. The cute indoor section is made up of a collective of closely positioned small white tables, curved mirrors, wooden chairs and a sweep of red velvet seating that stretches to the quaint little bar at one end. Tres chic. The relaxed, chatty ambiance will soon ease you into mistaking the waterfront for the Seine, not the Marina.
The little details help with this, too. Like the huge blackboard drinks menu that moves from table to table all night with a selection that changes weekly, small tables to deter big groups and the “Plats du Jour” (Friday’s fish skewers made with scallops, salmon, prawn and seabass are worth a mention here) all contribute to the authenticity.
Now, of course, all of this is worthless without top-notch cuisine. To start, we went on the recommendation of Julien, sharing the fresh salmon tartar with avocado sour cream and dill paired with a serving of escargot, which Julien coaxed us to try. The salmon tartar was light and bursting with fresh flavours that worked perfectly against the density of the garlic butter-dipped snails.
What was lovely is the service is authentic too, enthusiastic but not intrusive and we were left to pace the starters at our leisure.
For our mains we ordered le coquelet roti, roasted baby chicken with fries, green salad and tarragon jus, and the duck confit served with braised puy lentils and sautéed spinach. Simple, delicious dishes just the right side of too much butter.
They take desserts seriously here, as well. The strawberry tartelette is a must-try, made with shortbread biscuit, crème patisserie and juicy fresh strawberries, it’s just delicious – order with two spoons.
A slice of Paris in the heart of the Dubai Marina? We’d say so. And if you don’t believe us there are plenty of Parisians in the city who will concur.